By Chris Cummins
Kenneth Johnson’s original V miniseries was an intelligent Nazi allegory that also featured an alien broad with a British accent eating a guinea pig. No wonder it became a landmark achievement in sci-fi television. In its wake came the action-packed V: The Final Battle and budget-strapped V: The Series, both of which have their respective cool moments and flaws. But as a whole, the saga is one that is well worth reviving. Since the series’ cancellation in 1985, everyone from J. Michael Straczynski to Johnson himself tried unsuccessfully to bring it back to the airwaves in one form or another. Their failures weren’t totally in vain, as ABC will be airing a brand new V series in the upcoming fall season. Promising to be a “bold re-imagining of the sci-fi classic,” the show could very well become the next Battlestar Galactica. That is, if the network supports it. (The past couple of seasons have seen ABC heavily promoting then swiftly abandoning such died-before-their-time series as Invasion and The Unusuals when they didn’t instantly deliver Lost-sized ratings). As geeks and 1980s nostalgists eagerly await the new V, Topless Robot has a few suggestions/demands for the show’s producers. Here are eight things that series better goddamn get right, or there’s gonna be hell to pay. Are you listening ABC? Probably not, but this will be fun regardless.
8) The Cast Must Get Erotically Tortured
For a good chunk of men who grew up in the 1980s, the above clip of heroine Juliet getting “converted” by Diana was a key moment in their sexual awakening. (One that ranks alongside of Phoebe Cates’ swimsuit scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Erin Gray’s encounter with the Vorvon on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century). The new cast is hella sexy too, so the producers should get all the fellas and ladies either stripped down or thrown into form-fitting costumes for some erotically charged torture. Sex equals ratings, right? Who cares if it’s gratuitous and has nothing to do with space reptiles?
7) Starchild Must Never Appear
In V: The Final Battle, Earth was saved thanks to the Starchild’s magical–and incredibly convenient–psychic powers. Before you could say “deus ex machina,” the Visitors were on the run and the Resistance was victorious. Detractors of the second mini-series often point to the character of the Starchild (the hybrid daughter of Robin Maxwell and Brian the Horny Visitor) as the prime example of how far into crap sci-fi territory the storyline had fallen since the more serious events depicted in the first V. This is criticism at its most valid. When will people learn that the only true Starchild is Paul Stanley?
6) The Visitors Must Eat Animals Non-Stop
When Diana the Visitor ate the guinea pig in the first V mini-series, her meal became the stuff of television legend. Adults cheered, children screamed and NBC thrilled at the ratings reports. Recently, Los Angeles video artist Daniel Martinico created an installation at the Machine Project gallery that featured a 15-minute loop of William Shatner screaming “Khaaannnnnn!” from Star Trek II. The perfect follow-up project would be for Martinico to endlessly repeat the above footage of a phony Jane Badler head ingesting a rodent. The clip is so strangely compelling that it remains V‘s most iconic moment. Firefly‘s Morena Baccarin is portraying the equivalent of Diana in ABC’s V. If the show is to succeed, she and her fellow aliens need to be seen eating as often as possible. Not just small rodents either. Imagine the fun that could be had by watching them chow down on dogs, cats, cows, water buffaloes, etc. Send the Visitors back in time one week and have them munch on a T-Rex. With sci-fi, anything is possible!
5) Characters Must Die Often and Unexpectedly
During pre-production on Lost, it was decided that Jack Shepherd (originally to be portrayed by Michael Keaton) would die towards the end of the pilot. The thinking was that audiences would be so blown away by the death of the show’s seemingly main character they would think that anything could happen on the series. This risky move obviously didn’t happen, but the concept remains a fascinating one. To heighten suspense, the new series needs to keep viewers on edge by catching them off guard. The best way to do this would be to adopt the aborted Lost idea and kill off key characters. This may yet come to pass. It is rumored that Alan Tudyk’s FBI agent character will meet an early end. The Firefly curse strikes again!
4) Michael Ironside Must Join the Cast
The only bit of joy that Terminator Salvation gave me was the thrill of seeing Michael Ironside back in an A-list project. The dude can still act, and there’s no reason why the V-make shouldn’t utilize his hard-ass machismo. If the show runners don’t feel like resurrecting the Ham Tyler character, maybe they can create a new role for Ironside. Here’s a suggestion: he could play the father of Elizabeth Mitchell’s character, or give her daddy issues and make him her lover. Maybe he could be her dad and her lover? Um, probably not. Anyway, watch the above clip. Can the feel the emotion? Can you feel the emoting? Hire this man. If he’s not available, give Lance Henriksen a call. Ironside!
3) The Show Must Spawn Endless Merchandise
In America, the only V toy we ever got was an awesome doll that had a human face you could rip off to reveal the Visitor’s true reptilian appearance. It is pretty much the best thing ever. Nevertheless, other countries like Spain got a whole bunch of guns, figures, puzzles and other stuff. We need this sort of marvelous junk right here in the U.S. of A. On behalf of sad, lonely, overweight, geeky, single men everywhere I implore some understanding toy company to grab the V license and make as much crap based on the show as you can. Fellow nerds, let’s figure out exactly who we have to pester to make this happen. Later, maybe we can get some pizzas and crank call people who didn’t love us back.
2) The Visitors’ Enemies Must Show Up
Kenneth Johnson’s 2008 book V: The Second Generation ignores the events of V: The Final Battle and V: The Series and instead focuses on what happens when the Visitors’ enemies, an alien race known as the Zedti, comes to the aid of human Resistance fighters. Or do they? ABC’s take on V is that it will be a limited run series that will likely feature a four-year story arc. As such, the end of season two seems like a great time for the Zedti to arrive just in time for a game-changing cliffhanger. Speaking of Johnson, I think it would be a classy move for ABC to hire him as a consultant or possible writer on the series since its existence completely shits all over his dreams of a V: The Second Generation telefilm.
1) Various Stuff We Haven’t Seen Before Must Happen (Except for Erotic Torture, Michael Ironside and Non-Stop Animal Eating)
Above we have Robin Maxwell giving birth to a Ghoulie. Amazing, but we’ve seen it before. Like Battlestar Galactica before it, ABC’s V faces an uphill climb. Plot points like the reveal that the Visitors are actually big lizards who eat live creatures are what made V so beloved the first time around. But these secrets have been let out of the bag long ago. To succeed and thrive, the new series needs to shake things up, go places it hasn’t already and really turn people’s expectations upside down. That’s easy to type, but executing those borderline clich? ideas will be a hell of a lot trickier given the tightrope the show is walking. It must respect the original while also forging its own creative path and telling new stories. In this respect, ABC’s V is already thriving a bit by featuring all new characters and having the show reflect America’s current economic and social crises. Optimism may not be stylish in our “meh” age, but V is looking pretty interesting so far. Now all the producers need to do is land Ironside.